don’t you worry ’bout a thing.

Well, instead of three months to go, we’re back up to seven months. Ben’s deployment has been extended.

This was not welcome news, of course. Given the level of activity over there, and the politics over here, I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m a bunch of other emotions – frustrated, sad, disappointed, concerned – but surprise is not one of them. It’s not like I really have a say in the matter, so I’m trying not to waste my emotions and energy on the things I can’t control. But that doesn’t make it any less lousy.

The first eight months of this deployment have gone by fairly quickly, so I guess I should be encouraged. But I have a feeling this next stretch will be tough. There’s a birthday, our anniversary, the holidays, another birthday…days that are made beautiful by spending them with the people you love. I’m grateful to have dear family and friends to celebrate with, but I know those days will feel incomplete without Ben.

It’s been a long week. Between dealing with some stressful situations at work and feeling a bit overwhelmed with managing life details on my own, I was so glad to survive Friday and make my way home to recover and regroup. As I drove home Friday, some sappy song on the radio made me all teary as I pulled in the driveway. I would have given anything to have someone waiting for me at home – for a hug, an encouraging word, a glass of wine. I snapped out of my wallowing when I heard my phone ring as I neared the door. It’s as if the universe knew I needed a pick-me-up – it was Ben.

Charlie and Nimitz were a little frustrated that they didn’t have my undivided attention when I arrived home, but they proceeded with their usual greetings anyways: Charlie incessantly licking my hand/arm/knee/whatever he can reach, and Nimitz carrying his blanket in his mouth, tail wagging ridiculously fast, leaning all 105+ pounds of himself into my legs, body-checking Charlie if he was encroaching on his territory. (That’d be me…Nim is a momma’s boy through and through.) They are always an instant mood-booster – my little furry joy creators do their job well.

Ben could hear the canine shenanigans over the phone – ears flapping, Charlie huffing, Nim playing with his favorite new squeaker toy. Ben asked me if I had plans on November 3rd. And I got really confused. I went to the calendar and turned the pages – nothing written down. And it’s a Tuesday. What would I be doing on a Tuesday? He strung it out for a little while before he revealed to me that he had made some plans for me. As an anniversary/sorry-I-won’t-be-home-for-awhile present, Ben got me tickets to see someone I’ve wanted to see in concert since I was a kid wrapping Christmas presents to my mom’s Motown record albums: Stevie Wonder. He’s only getting a few hours of sleep a night and dealing with mass chaos, but he still found a way to bring a little joy to a girl in Oklahoma. It was a much-appreciated display of kindness, and the timing of the news could not have been more perfect.

As Stevie would say, “there’s a place in the sun where there’s hope for everyone.” Even on the darker days, there’s always something to be thankful for and be hopeful for. Always.

photo

My soul could use a little time in places like these.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

honey, I’m good.

6 1/2 months down, 4ish to go. We’re more than halfway through this deployment. It’s taking forever and going by quickly all at the same time.

It’s hard to explain what all this experience has been. The best I can do is to say it’s a milder version of the stages of grief. At first, it’s overwhelming, but with time, you learn to live with the new normal. It’s a constant dance between acceptance and frustration, balancing the chronic aching sadness with the pursuit of joy and adventure. I’ve been blessed with an independent spirit and I’m embracing the opportunities these months have presented me with, but at the end of the day, all I want to do is hug Benjamin. Heck, even just hearing his voice everyday would be a victory. Alas. That isn’t how this goes.

On the tough days, I remind myself that this is just a season, a finite time period that will come to an end. Yes, it’s been hard. Yes, I miss my husband. Yes, the quiet can be too much sometimes. But you know what? It’s worth it.

It’s worth it because I hear a renewed sense of purpose and contentment in my husband’s voice. It’s worth it because I have a restored sense of hope for our future and a greater sense of gratitude for the things that truly matter in life. Granted, I’d love it if these things didn’t require Ben getting deployed halfway around the world, but if that’s what it takes, it’s worth it.

When we’re faced with adversity, in the many shapes and forms that it comes, we are always in control of one thing: how we react to it. We can choose to wallow in our grief and frustration, dwelling on the difficult aspects and resenting the universe for spiting us. Or we can choose gratitude and joy and acceptance and muster up the courage to face the day, even if it takes everything in us to do so.

My joy will be complete when Ben is back home. Until that day, the hollowness in my heart will remain. But it’s all worth it. The best is yet to come.

Only 4ish months to go! I just have to get through hotter-than-Hades season in Oklahoma. The struggle is real, y’all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

little things.

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.” Frank Lloyd Wright

It’s taken me almost thirty years, but I’ve finally started putting conscious effort into doing the little things I’ve always known I should do. Floss my teeth. Wash my face before bed. Take that mascara off, too. Moisturize. Take a multivitamin. Learn how to say no when Netflix asks if I want to keep watching a show. Nothing difficult or revolutionary. Repetition of these small habits nurture discipline – and hopefully pretty skin when I’m 50.

Perhaps it has come with age or maybe it’s a side effect of deployment life, but I’m realizing more and more that a life of purpose is more satisfying to me than a life of plenty – and I don’t just mean in the material sense. During the past several months, I’ve been more cognizant of how I spend my time, my energy, and my emotions. In these quiet days, I’ve learned to refocus my priorities, to savor the simple moments, to listen and observe more, and to realize just how much unnecessary noise fills our days.

There seems to be a natural narrowing as I get older – cultivating the good habits and healthy relationships, shedding the excess and learning to say goodbye to things and people that aren’t helping me grow. There’s a freedom in knowing who I am and what I hope for – and putting less emphasis on achieving other people’s expectations of me. What I consume – words, food, conversations, music – has a great impact on who I am, and frankly, life’s too short to be overwhelmed by the cacophony that competes for our attention. I want to fill my days with as much good and beauty as I can. And I’ll take all the puppy snuggles I can get.

This season has also reminded me how blessed and fortunate I truly am. Many of life’s frustrations and difficulties seem so trivial when I think of Ben and what he is going through. It’s not so much that deployment is a trump card – it just reminds you of what really matters in life and what’s worth your energy and emotion.

At the end of the day, I just want to love others well and make my corner of the world a little better. And remember to wash my face before bed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I choose you.

My recent travels have confirmed it: I’m an East Coast girl with a West Coast soul. …living in a state with an identity crisis. Midwest? South? West? …Bueller? 

My most recent trip was to the Pacific Northwest to celebrate the wedding of a dear friend. It was a week of celebration culminating in the joyous union of two people who love each other and love others so well. I had a day to myself between the wedding events and my flight home, so I took advantage of the abnormal (in the loveliest way) weather and set out on a roadtrip from Portland to Mt. Hood, up to Hood River, along the Columbia River back to Portland, then through the Tillamook Forest to the coast, up the 101 to Seaside, then I finally decided I should head back to Portland and get ready for my trip home. It was a ~400 mile drive – and every single moment of it was beautiful. I squeezed in a short hike at Mt. Hood and a walk along the shore at Rockaway Beach. Any day that includes the mountains and the ocean is beyond perfection in my book.

IMG_3719

I could look at this forever.

IMG_3743

the birth of a cloud.

Throughout the week, that Ben-shaped hole in my heart grew and grew. I knew I’d miss him extra while surrounded by wedding things and happy couples and all those good things. There were some tough moments when the missing him seemed overwhelming. And then there were moments when the universe knew exactly when I needed a little pick-me-up. As the reception came to a close and people emptied out, I helped tidy up as a good bridesmaid should. The last song that played before the DJ shut off his equipment was a favorite of Ben’s – AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” – one that always brings a smile to my face, because it’s the only one he’ll dance to…and let me tell you, the boy has moves. As that unmistakable opening riff came over the speakers, I couldn’t help but think that somehow the universe was trying to give me a little encouragement. Oh, how I miss that boy.

IMG_3717

the prettiest bride.

Weddings are a good reminder of what is most important in our lives – the ones we love and the way we treat them. As Claire and Kyle exchanged their vows, I was struck by the beauty of the promises they made to one another, the commitment that was being honored that day. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Benjamin, the years we’ve shared together, and how great a privilege and responsibility it is to live up to the promises we exchanged on our wedding day. It’s easy to say “I do” when asked if you vow to love someone for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in good times and bad – it’s a whole other thing to actually do it. Even in his absence, I’m learning more and more about what it means to be a good wife, to be a good friend.

“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.” ~ Hilary T. Smith, Wild Awake

I read this quote at Claire’s wedding – it’s such a good reminder. When we are vulnerable, we give others the opportunity to extend us grace, to love us despite the unlovable things about us, to accept us without judgment. We risk feeling ashamed and embarrassed, we muster up the courage to confront those dark places we don’t want anyone else to see. Our offering of ourselves is our expression of trust, our desire to be loved. Our hope is that it won’t be mocked or dismissed. Our hope is that love will win. Choose love. Let it win.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

save me, san francisco.

It was a privilege and a blessing to meet up with my dear brother and sister-in-law in San Francisco last week. They invited me to tag along and be Melissa’s partner-in-crime while Dave attended a conference for work – of course I said yes! Melissa had been to the city a couple times before, so she was pretty SF-savvy. I felt like I had my own personal tour guide – she could almost pass for a local. While we were planning for the trip, Melissa asked me what I’d like to see and do while we were there, since it was my first visit to the area. My list was pretty simple: hug a redwood, drink wine in Napa, see the Golden Gate Bridge, and go to Alcatraz. We accomplished all of that and more – all while enjoying sunshine and warm weather. Now that I’ve stepped on actual ground (airports don’t count) in California, I’ve added another state in my quest to visit all 50 – only 15 more to go!

While Dave was busy hanging out with thousands of ridiculously smart techie people, Melissa and I walked a million steps (that’s a conservative estimate) and soaked up all the Vitamin D we could as we explored the city.

k&m golden gate

sisters at the golden gate!

We started off our adventure at one of San Francisco’s most iconic structures – the Golden Gate Bridge! We traversed the terrain in very sensible footwear and made our way down to the water’s edge for some fantastic views. It was so therapeutic being by water again. It’s not everyday an Oklahoma girl gets to look out at the horizon and see nothing but water.

Next on the docket was a visit to Golden Gate Park (which is not next to the bridge) and the Japanese Tea Garden. It was so beautiful! The landscaping was gorgeous and the entire area was so serene. I need one of these in my backyard!

japanese tea garden.

japanese tea garden.

We finished up the day with a delicious dinner at a great little Mexican restaurant in the Mission District and gave our feet a nice little rest after all that walking. Time to rest up for another day of fun!

Dave joined us the next morning for a stroll by the piers as we made our way to the ferry that would take us to Alcatraz. He wasn’t able to join us for the tour, but we all enjoyed our morning coffee together while on the move. The ride to Alcatraz was so beautiful – the San Francisco skyline, Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge were all in view as we made our way to The Rock.

golden gate & alcatraz

I’m on a boat.

alcatraz

Alcatraz.

The audio tour of the Cellhouse was fascinating and heartbreaking all at the same time. As I strolled through the corridors, voices of actual prisoners and guards told the stories those weathered walls have seen, revealing just how far some of the tenants were willing to go in efforts to regain their freedom. The contrast of the bleak buildings – some simply heaps of rubble at this point – with vibrant gardens such an impressive location was poetically ironic. The brokenness of man, the beauty of creation. Visiting Alcatraz was one of the highlights of the trip for me, for sure.

view from alcatraz

what a view.

garden view

it was totally tempting to take trimmings of all the succulents home with me to start my own gardens.

Melissa and I met up with Dave after lunch and headed north to Muir Woods. If there’s anything that rivals my love for big water, it’s big trees. And these were the biggest trees I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing what a few quiet moments in a place like this can do for the soul.

k&d muir woods

brother & me.

redwoods

a walk in the woods.

On our way back to the city, we stopped at Marin Highlands just in time to catch the sunset. It was ridiculously beautiful.

view from marin

just whoa.

sunset marin

the last little bit of sunlight on the west coast.

What a day. So much beauty. And with two of the most wonderful people I know. I’m a lucky girl.

Our last day of fun involved some cable car rides, a walk up the steepest city street I’ve ever seen to check out Lombard Street (the zig-zag street that’s really fun to watch people try to navigate in their SUVs), lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf, and our final adventure – a roadtrip to Napa! We made a few rookie mistakes when it came to planning our Napa outing (way too many places close before 5 p.m….which kind of stinks when you don’t get there until 3:45), but we still managed to have a great time! Dave and I enjoyed a cabernet tasting at Silver Oak (a wonderful recommendation from a friend), we all had a glass of sparkling wine at Domaine Chandon (we missed the last tasting by 15 minutes…boo!), and found a place that was actually open past 5:00 for our final wine tasting that also introduced us to the most incredible brie ever (thanks, Priest Ranch!). After a delicious meal in Yountville, we began the trek back to San Francisco to pack our bags and get ready for our flights back home.

d&m silver oak

my travel buddies at our first winery stop!

I was grateful to have two wiggly weimaraners waiting for me when I returned home. Upon my arrival, Charlie proceeded to lick my hand incessantly and Nimitz wouldn’t let me be more than three feet away from him for the next 36 hours. Oh, the love and loyalty of these dogs. It’s easier coming home to this quiet house knowing they are here.

The opportunity to get away for a few days and explore a new part of the country was a welcome change of pace. But I couldn’t help but think of Ben and how much fun it would have been to have him with us, how much he would have enjoyed Napa, and how much I miss him. That hollow spot in my heart that marks his absence is overwhelming at times.

Before he went overseas, Ben made me promise that I would live life to the fullest and embrace opportunities to travel and play while he was away. He was so supportive of me going on this trip, basically to the point of insisting on it. Who’s going to argue with that? He might try to hide it under his rough-around-the-edges persona, but that man has the biggest heart.

I struggled with feeling guilty about playing around in San Francisco while Ben is overseas working endlessly and has extremely limited options for recreation. I can’t really picture where he is right now because I don’t have many details, but I know he’s not out gallivanting. He works, he sleeps, repeat. I know it’s healthy for me to keep busy and to be out doing things – I guess in a way the feelings of guilt are somewhat twisted sense of gratitude and a reminder of the privilege it is to have the freedom and ability to explore new places and try new things. My head knows that it’s okay to have a little fun while he’s gone, my heart is having a harder time accepting it.

Having this trip to look forward to helped the first few months of this deployment pass quickly. October still seems like forever away. I guess it’s time for me to start planning my next adventure…where to next?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I’ll be there for you.

Last week, I had a conversation with a coworker about CDs. He mentioned that he and his wife were clearing out old boxes of albums – if the album was accounted for in their digitally-stored library, the physical album was out the door. He jokingly said to me, “nobody actually buys CDs anymore, do they?” I sheepishly replied that I still do…and he proceeded to look at me like I was a crazy person. I’d like to point out that this person has children my age. Yep. 

For certain artists, I still insist on buying their album in tangible album form. I do love you, iTunes, but there’s just something the real thing. Over the years, I developed an inaugural cd-listening ritual: after peeling off that outer layer of film and removing the adhesive seal (and a chunk of my nail polish), I’d pop out the album and put it in my stereo system (remember those things?), settle in to read the liner notes and savor the album from start to finish.

Similarly, I did something last weekend that I haven’t done in ages: I burned a mix CD. Hello, 2005. My CD mixes were pretty legendary during my college years, but in the age of iPods and playlists and fancy phones, their frequency diminished. One thing I love about my mix CDs is that they represent a specific time period in my life, and when I listen to them, I’m reminded of the people I danced around my dorm room with, epic roadtrips, the things my heart wanted, the words that expressed my thoughts better than I ever could. These songs chosen reflect a larger story; the soundtrack of my life, perhaps. So cheesy. And unlike playlists, I don’t need to delete them off my phone when I need to make room for more pictures of Nim and Charlie. #truestory

…clearly I’m hanging onto something from yesteryear. Like many twenty- and thirty-somethings these days, I’ve been watching lots of Friends on Netflix during these cold winter days and it’s made me a bit nostalgic. Not only do I love the humor and the awesome 90s fashion, but the camaraderie and sense of belonging that is shared among the characters is such a beautiful, enviable thing. How great would it be to have your best friends across the hall? Heck, I can barely get my neighbors to make eye contact and say hello.

Ben and I always joke with each other about being old souls. It’s something I love about us, something I embrace and own wholeheartedly. Like many things in life, my mindset with technology is that it’s all about balance. Yes, it’s amazing and good and helpful…but to a point. I’m a firm believer that there need to be boundaries. The best things in life aren’t shared via WiFi or measured by likes and retweets and shares. There’s beauty in simplicity – something I’m savoring more and more each day. Now if I could just move all the people I love a little closer together, I’d be set.

Likely, it’s the lovable characters and the shenanigans they find themselves in, but could it also be the nostalgia? Maybe it’s the idea that the ’90s and early 2000s were a simpler time, filled with landlines, VCRs and mixed tapes. It was a time when you met with your friends at your go-to coffee shop to hear about the drama in their lives… because there was no GChat. It was a time when Ross could get stranded at a rest stop while everyone else went on a ski trip because cell phones weren’t a thing. There’s no end to the debacles our favorite friends found themselves in that wouldn’t be possible with today’s technology. In fact, how boring would the show have been if everyone just texted each other? [Brit + Co.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

hole hearted.

First off, kudos to those of you who can sing this post’s namesake without the aid of Google. And even more kudos to those of you that have realized that 99% of my blog post titles are snippets of song lyrics. Yep. I’m cool/weird like that.

Today is Ben’s birthday. I wish I could bake him a cake and share a bottle of his favorite wine…but alas…I’ll have to settle for a phone call. I was able to talk to him last night – hooray! It was already his birthday where he is, so I got to “celebrate” with him from afar. Once I heard him say that he was smoking a cigar, I knew he was having a good day. And he built an Adirondack chair. That’s what everyone does on their birthday, right? I’m hoping he brings some of those woodworking skills back to the States.

All is well on the homefront. During the past several weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the seemingly “small” things that make life so wonderful. These days, the best things are phone calls and emails from Ben, a hug, face-to-face conversations, someone to eat dinner with…you know, the every day stuff that is so, so easy to take for granted. I miss having someone to come home to, and I’ll be really glad when I stop waking up in the middle of the night because I’m reaching out for Ben and grasping nothing but a furry, snoring puppy. Apparently my subconscious isn’t up to speed quite yet. The pups are great company, of course, but there’s a Ben-shaped hole in my heart that will remain until he’s home.

Okay, okay…if you’re dying for some peppy big hair 80s goodness, give this a listen: EXTREME “hole hearted”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized